Red is the new black when it comes to tea. Like our favourite black and green teas, South African Red Tea or Rooibus Tea is also high in antioxidants. An added benefit, however, is that rooibos tea is naturally caffeine free and therefore has none of the side effects normally associated with caffeine consumption.
Black and green teas both come from the same plant, Camelia sinensis, while red tea comes from the rooibos plant, Aspaiathus linearis. This plant is found only in the Cedarberg Mountains near Cape Town in South Africa. Red tea is actually an herb and technically you are creating a tisane when brewed, not a real tea.
AN ANCIENT BREW
This drink is actually a centuries old drink to the South African Bushmen called Khoisans. Europeans discovered this drink in 1772 when Carl Peter Thunberg, a famous botanist, mentioned it in his notes. Shortly after the Dutch settlers began cultivating it as a substitute for black tea which, at the time, was an expensive commodity.
In the 1930s an attempt was made to introduce this tea to the world but it ended in disaster. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the tea was rediscovered. In 1968 Annetjie Theron was a desperate housewife who found that red tea soothed her baby’s colic. She went on to develop numerous skin care products using rooibos tea. In 1984 these gained international attention when Japan began to market rooibos as an anti-aging product.
NEW TO NORTH AMERICA
Rooibos tea was slow to catch on in North America but thanks to tea expert Katy Tubb, that is changing. After discovering red tea’s exceptional flavour, she brought a sample to her employer. Tubb is director of worldwide tea buying and blending and company taster for Tetley Tea.
Red tea is a popular homeopathic remedy for allergies, sleep disorders, headaches and digestive problems. Many of these claims have not been scientifically proven, however, researches have established that it does promote the production of antibodies and delays the recurrence of the herpes simplex virus. A study done in 2005 found that rooibos tea protected against the growth of lesions associated with skin cancer. A study done in 2008 at Cape Peninsula University of Technology found that rooibos provided protection against oxidative stress and inflammation associated with the development of heart disease.
If you’re looking for a healthy, new taste sensation, try some red tea.